Prison service to spend €120,000 on spiritual needs of prisoners

The Irish Prison Service (IPS) is set to spend up to €120,000 recruiting up to 25 prison chaplains to look after the spiritual needs of prisoners, writes Gordon Deegan.

The IPS has an immediate requirement for 10 prison chaplains across its prison network to fill a number of chaplain vacancies and along with providing for prisoners' spiritual needs, the chaplains will perform a wide-ranging role for prisoners.

On attending to the prisoners’ spiritual needs, the IPS state that the chaplains will do this by “providing opportunities for prayer and reflection, encouraging participation in religious services, providing spiritual periodicals and engaging in preaching and religious instruction”.

According to the IPS tender document, the chaplains’ brief also includes encouraging and supporting prisoners in adapting to prison life, preparing them for life after release as law-abiding valued members of society and helping them in the transition from prison back to the community.

Over the three-year contract with the IPS, the chaplains’ tasks also include meeting all prisoners as soon as possible after committal and supporting those about to be released.

Chaplains are also expected to visit any prisoner who is placed in a safety observation cell or close supervision cell unless the prisoner is unwilling to receive such a visit.

The chaplains are also expected to respond, intervene and be present at times of trauma, crisis, illness or grief affecting prisoners.

The IPS also expects prison chaplains to provide opportunities for prayer and reflection and create a warm, calm and welcoming environment in the prison chapel or other designated places.

Prison chaplains are also expected to play a role in assisting prisoners in making/maintaining contact with their families and encouraging prisoners to explore avenues of treatment and rehabilitation.

Prison chaplains also promote mutual respect between prisoners and staff while encouraging prisoners to work towards positive lifestyle change and motivate and assist them in addressing offending behaviour and engaging with prison services.

Chaplains are also expected to contribute to the development and implementation of initiatives, policies and programmes designed to help prisoners to develop life skills and capacities that will assist in leading law-abiding, purposeful and fulfilling lives.

The tender states that there are currently full-time vacancies for chaplains at Arbour Hill prison, Cork prison, Limerick and two each at the Mountjoy campus and the West Dublin Campus made up of Cloverhill and Wheatfield prisons.

In addition, the Prison Service has part-time vacancies at Castlerea, Shelton Abbey and Limerick prisons.

The chaplaincy service operates seven days a week, 365 days a year and hours of attendance can vary according to the needs of the prison and will include evenings, weekends and national holidays.

Candidates must hold a recognised professional qualification in pastoral care or hold a recognised professional qualification in theology.

Candidates are also expected to have a minimum of one year’s pastoral experience in a community, school or hospital setting or a prison or other similar secure setting.

Those tendering for the service must show an annual turnover of €250,000.

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